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The Falls

Dark places in the sea

Where stillness lingers and the depths are unknown

Where the ships don’t go

They would rather face the tempest


This is not the first time the end of a novel has put me into a dark, brooding mood. Sometimes its the sheer fact of having reached the end of a good book and being unsure about what to do next, because every book changes me a little. I don’t always learn something but I relate to someone and its not t he same anymore. I would never look at those words as just words again. The Falls. When you know that they represent the title of a murder mystery, you will never look at the falls as something beautiful and magical but rather, as something sinister.

DI Rebus‘s Edinburgh is not a pretty place, I am learning. Two novels in and I know Rebus carries the baggage of ghosts…relationship’s gone wrong, both personal and professional, a crippled daughter and a department that mistrusts the directions his ethics lead him in and maybe they see that the cases he deals with really get to him, but they can’t accept the way in which he let’s them.

And so the city Rebus lives in is full of dingy pubs and where others see beauty, he sees shadows which haunt him; his music is a testimony to the loneliness of the nights he spends  in his apartment, dealing with the things he doesn’t care to explain. But in the sub spaces of his mind, the victims he is dealing with find justice because he lets them get under his skin and stay there. His unsolved cases stay there. The times he crossed the line stay there. The mistakes he’s made stay there. The apologies he owes stay there. And he considers himself damaged, always returning to alcohol to carry him elsewhere.

And The Falls is about all of that. But its about more. A missing girl who may or may not be dead. Her on-and-off boyfriend who is coolly detached and yet visibly shaken. Her father, whose business is the most important thing in his life. Her mother, who can’t help but want her back with the quietly desperate melancholy that only mothers can feel. An old school friend who may or may not have reasons to seek revenge. A business associate who has a dark secret buried underneath his executive layers. And beyond that, a pathologist clamped within the clutches of history, a woman getting too far lost in her own life and career. And also, possibly, someone new for Rebus to begin testing those waters again.

The characters come alive and dance past one another and the shadows lengthen as layers are added to layers, motives overlap and interchange. At the heart of it all is the story of an online game involving clues and questions. And the story of tiny coffins with dolls buried in them. There is something macabre and menacing about these cremated dolls, nailed shut, found in the wilderness, almost as if they are a talisman for someone who did not wish for them to be found.

Either way, right from the Burke and Hare murders of the 18oos, which draw Rebus towards them with a magnetic pull, right up to Siobhan’s encounters with the online Quizmaster who refuses to identify himself as he leads her on a chase with mind games sweeping through Edinburgh, this novel is a heart0-thumping tale that will draw you in with its little twists as you discover each character a little more, understand their imperfections and rip through their well-guarded secrets.

The more pages you read, the more impressed the story gets into your brain because the horrors of everything Rebus unfolds, the things that don’t leave him and won’t leave you, even after you’re done reading; they fill your head with images.

I can’t help somberly reflecting upon the things that wouldn’t leave me: Siobhan’s perception of the Quizmaster and the way she understood exactly what the missing student Flipside has felt as the riddles had gotten to her head, the cryptic and smug manner in which the Quizmaster communicates with her, that image of little smiling dolls staring out of a custom-made coffin, the story of Burke and Hare and that of the Arthur Seat’s coffins.

I can’t make the heebie jeebies go away, can’t rid my mind of these stories, can’t get this darkness out. And when I read Ian Rankin’s afterword and discovered that a role playing game had led to a Frenchman’s unexplained death on a Scottish mountaintop; well, the internet is a scary place. Maybe more scary than other places where we can at least judge a man by his appearance, judge a book by its cover.

This book is gonna stay with me for a while. This was the second Ian Rankin I read after Resurrection Men, liked this one bucketloads better. Tried to enjoy Rankin’s recommendation The Falls, by Mutton Birds, but gave up after a few lines

Its true what they said though,

‘There must be a story behind all that.’

And boy, does Ian Rankin tell it and tell it well.


‘Aren’t we all curious about the things we fear?’

Don’t miss this book if you can help it.


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